Bucks Rumors

2023 NBA Offseason Preview: Milwaukee Bucks

There is already proof of concept that Milwaukee’s core roster is a championship-caliber group, given that the team won the title two years ago. However, the past two seasons have ended in disappointment, with exits in the second and first round of the playoffs, respectively.

The Bucks were considered the favorites to win the championship again in ’22/23 after posting a league-high 58 wins and entering the Eastern Conference playoffs as the top overall seed. Instead, they lost a five-game first-round series against No. 8 Miami in embarrassing fashion, blowing double-digit fourth-quarter leads in Games 4 and 5 after Giannis Antetokounmpo returned from a back injury.

Obviously, the two-time MVP missing two games — and most of a third — had an impact on the series. Antetokounmpo looked less than 100 percent once he did return. Still, the Heat were clearly the better, more composed team when it mattered most.

An injury to a key player was a major factor in Milwaukee’s 2022 playoff ouster too, as three-time All-Star Khris Middleton missed last spring’s entire seven-game series against Boston. But health luck always plays an important role in the championship race, and the Bucks had the third-most expensive roster in the NBA in ’22/23, with a projected tax payment of nearly $84MM, per Eric Pincus. Championships and pricey payrolls lead to high expectations, which is why head coach Mike Budenholzer was fired after five seasons at the helm.

While Antetokounmpo is only 28 years old and has shown no signs of slowing down from a production standpoint, his very physical playing style has contributed to him appearing in between 61 and 67 regular seasons games over the past four years. Figuring out the best way to optimize his prime with a newly restrictive Collective Bargaining Agreement about to kick in is the biggest challenge the Bucks face going forward.

The Bucks’ Offseason Plan

The first order of business for Milwaukee this offseason has reportedly already been decided — Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin will be the new head coach after the Bucks interviewed a lengthy list of candidates. Antetokounmpo was said to be “intrigued” by Griffin and endorsed the former NBA wing, who doesn’t have head coaching experience but had an impressive interview.

Now that the coaching search is complete, the two most immediate concerns for the Bucks are figuring out what Middleton is going to do with his $40.4MM player option and working out a new contract with center Brook Lopez, who is an unrestricted free agent. The priority will likely be bringing back both players, since they don’t have a reasonable way to replace two of the top potential free agents on the market.

Let’s say Middleton picks up the option and the Bucks either extend or re-sign Lopez to a new deal with a starting value of $15MM in 2023/24. That would put Milwaukee’s payroll at $172.8MM with only eight players signed to standard contracts. The projected luxury tax line is $162MM.

In that scenario, even if the Bucks signed six players on minimum contracts to fill out the roster at an average of $2MM each (about the projection for a veteran with two years of experience), their payroll would be $184.8MM, which would be nearly $23MM over the tax line.

In the new CBA, which will kick in starting July 1, the NBA will implement a second tax apron that will be $17.5MM above the tax line. The second apron is essentially a pseudo-hard cap, because it is very punitive to the league’s biggest spenders.

Teams above the second apron will lose access to the taxpayer mid-level exception — the Bucks would have been ineligible to sign Joe Ingles with their taxpayer MLE last summer had the rule been in effect. There are several other prohibitive restrictions that will reportedly be phased in over the next two seasons — the full list can be found right here.

There are ways the Bucks could still avoid the apron. If Middleton is open to a new long-term contract with a lower starting value in ’23/24, that could help. Trading one of their mid-sized contracts (Bobby Portis, Pat Connaughton, Grayson Allen) would be an option.

Allen, who has averaged 10.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG and 1.9 APG on .441/.401/.881 shooting over the past four seasons with the Grizzlies and Bucks, seems like the most likely to be on the move, considering he was involved in plenty of trade rumors in ’22/23 and his contract will be expiring.

While it is absolutely beneficial to avoid the second tax apron long term, there’s nothing preventing the Bucks from re-signing their own free agents this offseason if ownership is still willing to foot the bill.

In addition to Lopez and Middleton, who was limited to 33 regular season games but had a strong playoff showing, guard Jevon Carter could become a free agent if he declines his $2.2MM player option in search of a pay raise, and Ingles, Jae Crowder, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Goran Dragic, Meyers Leonard and Wesley Matthews are all unrestricted FAs. That’s nine possible free agents. Needless to say, there could be roster turnover, even if it’s at the back end.

Although it might seem counterintuitive based on how the luxury tax works (increasing penalties), if the Bucks do bring back some of their free agents, they would actually be better off signing a few of them to deals above the minimum — if given permission from ownership. That would create more mid-sized contracts that could possibly be used as salary ballast in future trades, since the Bucks are unlikely to move any of their expensive core (Giannis, Middleton, Jrue Holiday). That’s assuming, of course, Middleton returns, which I do think is very likely — he and Giannis are the longest-tenured members of the team and have been instrumental in building the Bucks’ winning culture.

The Bucks only control one draft pick in 2023 — No. 58 overall, the final pick of the second round — and only have one tradable first-rounder (2029) due to obligations from other deals. They’ve also traded away five of their next six second-rounders after this season. As such, their movable draft equity is very limited for the time being.

Salary Cap Situation

Guaranteed Salary

Dead/Retained Salary

  • None

Player Options

Team Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Salary

  • None

Restricted Free Agents

  • None

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

  • No. 58 overall (no cap hold)

Extension-Eligible Players

  • Grayson Allen (veteran)
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (veteran)
  • Jae Crowder (veteran)
  • Brook Lopez (veteran)
  • Khris Middleton (veteran)

Note: These are players who are either already eligible for an extension or will become eligible before the 2023/24 season begins. Crowder and Lopez are only eligible until June 30.

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Note: The cap hold for Teague remains on the Bucks’ books from a prior season because it hasn’t been renounced. He can’t be used in a sign-and-trade deal.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Taxpayer mid-level exception: $5,000,000

Note: The Bucks would gain access to the full mid-level exception and the bi-annual exception if their team salary remains below the tax apron. If their team salary exceeds the second tax apron, they would lose access to any form of the mid-level exception.

Bucks Plan To Hire Adrian Griffin As Head Coach

The Bucks intend to hire Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin as their next head coach, reports Adrian Wonjarowski of ESPN (Twitter links). According to Wojnarowski, the two sides are in the process of finalizing a contract agreement.

Griffin, one of three reported finalists for the open coaching position in Milwaukee, was the only one without any previous head coaching experience.

Kenny Atkinson and Nick Nurse were also said to be in the running, though Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets that the Bucks ultimately decided between Griffin and Atkinson after Nurse pulled out of the process.

An NBA player from 1999-2008, Griffin transitioned to coaching after his retirement and has been an assistant on NBA staffs for the last 15 years. He actually began his coaching career with the Bucks from 2008-10 before moving on to Chicago (2010-15), Orlando (2015-16), and Oklahoma City (2016-18). He has spent the last five years as an assistant on Nurse’s staff in Toronto.

Griffin has received head coaching consideration from multiple clubs in recent years, including the Pistons, Raptors, and Rockets this spring. He filled in as Toronto’s head coach on an interim basis in February while Nurse was away from the team for family reasons and spoke about how the experience was “good practice” for his goal of eventually getting his own team.

Griffin was accused of domestic abuse by his ex-wife on social media in 2020, but vehemently denied those allegations and never faced criminal charges. He later filed a defamation suit in response.

Milwaukee launched a head coaching search after dismissing Mike Budenholzer in early May. Budenholzer earned Coach of the Year honors in 2019, won a championship in 2021, and led the team to an NBA-best 58-24 record in 2022/23. However, the top-seeded Bucks were quickly eliminated from the playoffs in embarrassing fashion by the No. 8 Heat, resulting in Budenholzer’s ouster.

The Bucks reportedly interviewed at least a dozen candidates before narrowing their focus to their three finalists. According to Charania, the second round of their search included meetings with star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was previously said to be “intrigued” by Griffin and endorsed the hiring.

The finalists met with Antetokounmpo on Tuesday, then with Bucks ownership on Wednesday, per Charania. On Thursday, general manager Jon Horst held a meeting to discussion the decision — that meeting included ownership, and Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton were invited to attend, a league source tells The Athletic.

Nurse’s withdrawal from the process is an interesting subplot. He’s believed to be very much in the running for the head coaching vacancies in Philadelphia and Phoenix, so it’s possible he’s focused on landing one of those jobs. A report this week indicated Nurse had “strong support” from some members of the Bucks’ organization, but that support wasn’t unanimous.

The Suns, Sixers, Raptors, and Pistons remain in the market for new head coaches, with the Bucks joining the Rockets as teams that have completed coaching searches so far this spring.

Central Notes: Mannion, Bucks, LaVine, Cavs, Pistons

Former Warriors guard Nico Mannion, who has spent the past two seasons in Europe, is expected to play for the Bucks‘ Summer League team this July, reports Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews.com.

The No. 48 pick in the 2020 draft, Mannion spent just one season in Golden State, logging limited minutes in 30 games, before returning to his home country of Italy to play for Virtus Bologna. The former Arizona Wildcat is still just 22 years old, so there’s plenty of time for him to take another shot at the NBA.

However, it’s worth noting that Mannion wouldn’t be able to sign outright with the Bucks or another team, since the Warriors have tendered him a two-way qualifying offer in each of the last two offseasons, ensuring they still have his rights as a restricted free agent. If Golden State reissues that QO this summer, Mannion would once again be an RFA, giving the Warriors the ability to control his NBA free agency.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • According to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago, while the Knicksreported interest at the trade deadline was overstated, a number of rival executives around the NBA are “skeptical about the long-term marriage” between the Bulls and Zach LaVine. Johnson cautions that the Bulls have backed LaVine at every opportunity and have shown no indications that they intend to move on from him anytime soon, but says the speculation about an eventual break-up that he heard at the combine was “prevalent enough to acknowledge.”
  • Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com names Malik Beasley, Seth Curry, Yuta Watanabe, Terrence Ross, and Justin Holiday as some potential free agents who could be of interest to the Cavaliers this summer as the team seeks shooting help.
  • In a mock draft for The Detroit News (subscription required), Mike Curtis has the Pistons selecting Houston forward Jarace Walker at No. 5 overall, noting that the pick may not be the most exciting one Detroit could make, but arguing it would instantly make the team “more formidable” on defense. Curtis’ pick for the Pistons at No. 31 is Indiana forward Trayce Jackson-Davis.

2023 NBA Draft Picks By Team

Two of the biggest winners on draft lottery night last week were the Hornets and Pacers. Charlotte moved up two spots from the pre-lottery standings to claim the No. 2 overall pick. The Pacers, meanwhile, stayed put in the lottery, but because San Antonio leapfrogged Houston in the first round, Indiana moved up 18 spots from No. 50 to No. 32 in the second round due to a convoluted set of trade criteria.

The Hornets and Pacers have something else in common: Charlotte and Indiana are the only teams that control more than three picks in the 2023 NBA draft. In fact, the two clubs own five selections apiece, accounting for 10 of the 58 total picks in this year’s event.

Nine additional teams each have three 2023 picks, joining the Hornets and Pacers to control nearly two-thirds of the draft — those 11 teams hold 37 of this year’s 58 picks, leaving the other 19 clubs to divvy up the remaining 21 selections.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, three teams don’t own any 2023 draft picks. The Bulls, Knicks, and Sixers will sit out this year’s event unless they acquire a pick via trade.

To present a clearer picture of which teams are most – and least – stocked with picks for the 2023 NBA draft, we’ve rounded up all 58 selections by team in the space below. Let’s dive in…

Teams with more than two picks:

  • Charlotte Hornets (5): 2, 27, 34, 39, 41
  • Indiana Pacers (5): 7, 26, 29, 32, 55
  • San Antonio Spurs (3): 1, 33, 44
  • Portland Trail Blazers (3): 3, 23, 43
  • Orlando Magic (3): 6, 11, 36
  • Washington Wizards (3): 8, 42, 57
  • Utah Jazz (3): 9, 16, 28
  • Oklahoma City Thunder (3): 12, 37, 50
  • Brooklyn Nets (3): 21, 22, 51
  • Sacramento Kings (3): 24, 38, 54
  • Memphis Grizzlies (3): 25, 45, 56

Teams with two picks:

  • Houston Rockets: 4, 20
  • Detroit Pistons: 5, 31
  • Atlanta Hawks: 15, 46
  • Los Angeles Lakers: 17, 47
  • Los Angeles Clippers: 30, 48

Teams with one pick:

  • Dallas Mavericks: 10
  • Toronto Raptors: 13
  • New Orleans Pelicans: 14
  • Miami Heat: 18
  • Golden State Warriors: 19
  • Boston Celtics: 35
  • Denver Nuggets: 40
  • Cleveland Cavaliers: 49
  • Phoenix Suns: 52
  • Minnesota Timberwolves: 53
  • Milwaukee Bucks: 58

Teams with no picks:

  • Chicago Bulls
  • New York Knicks
  • Philadelphia 76ers

Coaching Rumors: Nurse, Bucks, Lue, Young, Stackhouse

Nick Nurse has been busy interviewing this offseason after being dismissed from the Raptors, and is reportedly a finalist for a couple different coaching vacancies, including Milwaukee’s.

While Nurse has “strong support” within the Bucks, Ian Begley of SNY.tv hears from sources who say that support isn’t unanimous among the “key stakeholders” in the organization.

Nurse, who won a championship with Toronto in 2018/19, is also a finalist in Phoenix and interviewed with Philadelphia. The other two reported finalists for the Bucks are Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson and Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin.

Here are a few more coaching rumors from Begley:

  • Begley is the latest to report that Clippers coach Tyronn Lue, who is still under contract, is expected to stay with L.A. and not be made available for any openings this spring. The Suns were among the teams rumored to be interested in Lue, which Begley confirms.
  • Assistant coach Kevin Young is considered a strong candidate for the the Suns‘ coaching vacancy after an impressive interview, per Begley. Marc Stein previously reported that Young had a legitimate chance to be promoted, with an endorsement from star guard Devin Booker. Aside from Nurse and Young, Jordi Fernandez, Frank Vogel and Doc Rivers are considered by some reporters to be finalists for the Suns.
  • According to Begley’s sources, the Pistons did background research on Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse, but Begley doesn’t specify whether or not he actually interviewed. Stackhouse was rumored to be a coaching candidate for the Raptors and was mentioned as possible candidate for Detroit. A longtime former NBA player and assistant coach, Stackhouse has been with Vanderbilt since 2019. Kevin Ollie, Charles Lee and Jarron Collins are reportedly the finalists for the Pistons’ coaching job.

Knicks Notes: Randle, Barrett, Hart, Quickley, D. Rose

The Knicks will listen to trade offers this summer for Julius Randle and RJ Barrett, but they won’t be eager to move either player unless they get a major star in return, Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News says in a discussion of the team’s offseason plans with Michael Scotto of HoopsHype and Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

Randle is coming off an All-NBA regular season, but he was disappointing in the playoffs for the second time in three years, although an ankle injury contributed to that. Scotto doesn’t believe other teams value him as highly as New York’s front office does, but Bondy questions whether Randle is an effective leader for the Knicks now that they’ve seemingly established themselves as a consistent playoff team. Begley notes that Randle has a personal connection with senior executive William Wesley and team president Leon Rose and states that management won’t try to deal him just because of a disappointing postseason.

Begley points out that some members of the front office were willing to send Barrett to Utah in last summer’s negotiations for Donovan Mitchell, so he’s likely to be made available again if the right deal comes along. Bondy believes any team talking about trading a star player to the Knicks would have to decide whether it would prefer Randle or Barrett in return.

There’s more on the Knicks from that conversation:

  • Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns have been mentioned as potential trade targets, but the three writers are skeptical that either deal will happen this summer. Scotto notes that Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey doesn’t like to trade star players unless he’s getting another one in return and suggests that the Heat look like a better option if Philadelphia ever decides to part with Embiid. Bondy points out that the Towns rumors have been around for a long time, and while he heard two years ago that coach Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t be opposed to a reunion with the Timberwolves big man, things might have changed since then.
  • Thibodeau’s affection for free agent Josh Hart and his CAA connections could help push his next contract into the range of $18MM per year, Scotto adds. He cites a consensus among attendees at last week’s draft combine that Hart plans to re-sign with New York.
  • Immanuel Quickley raised his value with a season that saw him finish second in the Sixth Man of the Year balloting, and his extension could be worth $80MM to possibly $100MM over four years, according to Scotto. Bondy cautions that the Knicks will have to be careful about how much they pay Quickley with big-money deals for Jalen Brunson, Randle, Barrett and likely Hart already in place.
  • The Bulls seem like a natural destination for Derrick Rose, whose $15.6MM team option for next season is unlikely to be picked up, Scotto states. Begley also mentions the Bucks, who were rumored to have interest in Rose during the season.

Coaching Rumors: Williams, Pistons, Young, Bucks, Griffin, Mazzulla

After reporting last week that the Pistons had planned to pursue Monty Williams for their head coaching job if they’d won the draft lottery, Marc Stein writes at Substack that Detroit apparently went ahead with that plan even after slipping to No. 5 on lottery night.

League sources tell Stein that the Pistons made Williams a “big-money” offer to become the team’s new head coach. However, it appears that effort was unsuccessful. As we noted on Tuesday in response to a report that Williams might take the 2023/24 season off, he’s still reportedly owed about $21MM from Phoenix, so it’s not as if he needs another job anytime soon for financial reasons.

With Williams apparently not in play, the Pistons continue to decide between Kevin Ollie, Charles Lee, and Jarron Collins, who are reportedly meeting with team owner Tom Gores for a second time. As Stein writes, the “consistent buzz” in coaching circles is that general manager Troy Weaver prefers Ollie for the position.

Here’s more from Stein on the head coaching vacancies around the NBA:

  • While he lacks the head coaching experience that some of the Sunsother finalists possess, assistant coach Kevin Young has a legitimate chance to be promoted to succeed Williams, according to Stein, who hears that Young has received a “strong endorsement” from All-Star guard Devin Booker.
  • Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is expected to talk to the team’s head coaching finalists, is said to be “intrigued” by Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin, Stein writes. Griffin is one of three candidates believed to be in the running for the job.
  • Even before the Celtics won Game 4 of their series vs. Miami on Tuesday, there was push-back against the idea that Joe Mazzulla‘s job as head coach was in real jeopardy, says Stein. While Stein isn’t entirely ruling out the idea that Mazzulla could be replaced this spring, he suggests it would conflict with what we know about president of basketball operations Brad Stevens and how he operates.

Atlantic Notes: Nets, J. Brown, Sixers, Nurse, Raptors

There’s a good chance that the Nets, who have a surplus of wings, will trade at least one of their veterans this offseason, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post (subscription required). Brooklyn stocked up on two-way wings at the trade deadline, acquiring Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, and Dorian Finney-Smith in deals with Phoenix and Dallas.

Bridges looks like a player the Nets will build around, and while Johnson will reach free agency this summer, Brooklyn can control that process since he’ll be a restricted free agent. In Lewis’ view, that leaves Finney-Smith and Royce O’Neale as the two wings most likely to be on the trade block this offseason. For his part, Finney-Smith is very aware that more changes could be coming to the Nets’ roster in the coming months.

“Everybody here knows what’s going on, we know the pieces we have and you just never know in this league,” he said. “So I guess we’re going to see after the draft. See what’s going on and go from there.”

According to Lewis, while there’s a belief that the Nets could move one of their three-and-D wings to try to balance their roster, people around the NBA also think the club may trade one of its first-round picks in order to add scoring and/or rebounding. Brooklyn currently controls two consecutive first-rounders at No. 21 and No. 22 in this year’s draft.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • If the Celtics were to make Jaylen Brown available this offseason, there would be “robust demand” from “a lot” of teams around the league, ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on The Lowe podcast prior to Boston’s Game 4 victory (hat tip to RealGM). Although Brown has struggled in the Eastern Conference Finals vs. Miami, it’s obviously not groundbreaking news that a 26-year-old All-NBA wing would be popular on the trade market. Brown, who has one year left on his contract, will be super-max eligible this offseason, but wouldn’t be able to sign a super-max deal if he’s traded.
  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer believes that Nick Nurse should be atop the Sixers‘ wish list as they seek a new head coach, arguing that the team would benefit from Nurse’s outside-the-box thinking. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Nurse will have interviewed with the Sixers, Bucks, and Suns by week’s end and is believed to be at or near the top of the list for all three jobs. If Nurse is their top choice, the 76ers may need to accelerate their search process in order to avoid losing him to Milwaukee or Phoenix, observes Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com.
  • A perfect offseason for the Raptors would see the team hire Monty Williams as its head coach and trade Pascal Siakam to Portland in a package headlined by Anfernee Simons and this year’s No. 3 pick, Eric Koreen of The Athletic contends. In his proposed scenario, Koreen also envisions Toronto drafting Scoot Henderson, re-signing Jakob Poeltl, letting Gary Trent Jr. walk, signing-and-trading Fred VanVleet to Chicago, using the mid-level exception to sign Donte DiVincenzo, and flipping Simons to Memphis in a deal for Tyus Jones and Luke Kennard.

Central Notes: Bucks’ Coaching Search, Pacers, Cheaney, Cavs

While Nick Nurse, Kenny Atkinson, and Adrian Griffin are the only finalists that have been reported so far in the Bucks‘ head coaching search, Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel hears from a source that the team could still expand that list of finalists.

For now though, Milwaukee seems to be deciding between Nurse, Atkinson, and Griffin, prompting Eric Nehm of The Athletic to consider why each coaching candidate may – or may not – be a fit for the franchise.

A league source who spoke to Owczarski (subscription required) got the sense that Bucks general manager Jon Horst prefers a coach with “a bit of edge” in terms of style. That could be a point in favor of Nurse, who gained a reputation for experimenting with unorthodox defensive styles when he took over as the head coach in Toronto. As Nehm observes, Nurse also won a championship in his first year as a head coach, a feat the Bucks are hoping their next coach will be able to replicate.

The second round of interviews for the Bucks is expected to include dialogue with two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Marc Stein writes at Substack. Horst told reporters earlier this month that he expected to get input from Antetokounmpo during the team’s coaching search.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Pacers assistant Calbert Cheaney is leaving Rick Carlisle‘s staff to return to his alma mater and become the director of player development at Indiana University under Mike Woodson. Carlisle and the Pacers put out a statement thanking Cheaney for his contributions and wishing him well in his new job. The team also announced that Isaac Yacob is being promoted from head video coordinator to a player development role.
  • The Pacers, armed with five picks in this year’s draft, will almost certainly trade one or more of them, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star (subscription required). With the picks they keep, the Pacers won’t be overly focused on positional fit, but likely won’t select anyone who will be a defensive liability, Dopirak adds.
  • Kelsey Russo of The Athletic considers a few options for the Cavaliers‘ pick at No. 49, identifying Marquette forward Olivier-Maxence Prosper, Illinois wing Terrence Shannon, and Eastern Michigan wing Emoni Bates as possible targets. Prosper, who had a strong showing at least week’s combine, may not still be available by the time Cleveland picks — he ranks No. 32 on ESPN’s big board.

Latest On Suns’ Head Coaching Search

There are conflicting accounts on exactly where things stand in the Suns‘ head coaching search.

On Tuesday evening, Shams Charania of The Athletic and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN both reported that Phoenix was advancing a handful of candidates to the final stage of the process, but the names the two reporters identified didn’t match up.

Charania and Wojnarowski agreed that Nick Nurse, Doc Rivers, Kevin Young, and Jordi Fernandez are among the Suns’ finalists, but Charania added Frank Vogel to that list, while Woj said there were only four remaining candidates.

In a story published late on Tuesday, Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic came down on Charania’s side, citing sources who say that the Suns have five finalists, with Vogel still in the mix.

However, Chris Haynes of TNT and Bleacher Report has pushed back on that entire series of reports, tweeting overnight that Phoenix has actually yet to reach the final stage of its interview process. According to Haynes, the team is still expected to meet with Bucks associate head coach Charles Lee and Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson.

[RELATED: 2023 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

It’s odd that the NBA’s top two news-breakers and a plugged-in local beat writer would each separately report that the Suns are entering the final stage of their head coaching search process if the club still has interviews on tap with additional candidates. Perhaps Phoenix could expand its list of finalists to include Lee and/or Atkinson — based on the reports from Charania, Wojnarowski, and Rankin, I wouldn’t consider either of them a frontrunner at this point, but it sounds like they shouldn’t be entirely ruled out either.

The Suns are seeking a replacement for Monty Williams, who was let go after four seasons with the franchise despite compiling a 194-115 regular season record, leading Phoenix to the 2021 NBA Finals, and earning Coach of the Year honors in 2022.

Initial reporting following Williams’ dismissal indicated that Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue may be atop Phoenix’s wish list. Lue’s name hasn’t come up at all in recent days, which likely suggests that the Suns are resigned to the fact that he’ll be staying in Los Angeles.